It's official: on June 11, representatives of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced the appointment of Amanda Susskind as the new Pacific Southwest regional director.
"This has been a very energizing and close project between the leadership in Los Angeles and in the national office," said Ann Tourk, ADL associate director for regional operations. "We are looking forward to her [Susskind] stepping into the role."
Susskind, 45, is an attorney with a background in public policy. Her most recent position was with the law offices of Weston, Benshoof, et. al. in Los Angeles, specializing in environmental law. During her tenure at her previous firm, Richards, Watson & Gershon, she served as city attorney on a contract basis for the cities of Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Diamond Bar. Prior to that, Susskind was a senior deputy counsel for L.A. County, drafting and lobbying for legislation on the county's behalf. In 2000, she ran for the 42nd District Assembly seat, narrowly losing to former West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz.
Susskind's work in the Jewish community includes nearly a decade on The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' Legislative Committee and two years with the Federation's Jewish Community Relations Committee's policy cabinet. She also participated in policy conferences for the American Israel Political Action Committee. The directorship will be her first involvement with the ADL.
"I went to law school to go into public service, so this is a very natural fit for me," Susskind said. "I also had the great fortune of having a long career as deputy counsel and there are a lot of similarities in the way government works and the way service- and community-oriented nonprofit organizations work. For me, the challenge will be the learning curve and getting up to speed on all the wonderful things the ADL is doing."
Sources at the ADL said the selection process was a long and arduous one, coming nearly six months after the abrupt dismissal of David Lehrer, the ADL's previous western regional director. For much of that time, morale throughout the Los Angeles branch of the organization has been low and confidence in the region's relationship with the New York office even lower. There was even talk at one point of a split between the two, although it was clear from early on that such plans would never have gained widespread support.
Now, looking toward the future, lay leaders feel confident that Susskind, who takes over as director on July 15, will be able to restore balance and harmony to both the L.A. office and its relationship with the ADL's headquarters in New York.
"We were looking for someone who could think outside the box, someone who possessed the ability to meet some very critical and unusual challenges both locally and nationally," said Judge Bruce Einhorn, the outgoing chair of the ADL's San Fernando Valley board and a member of the organization's national commission who served on the selection committee. "We were also looking for someone with local sensibilities and knowledge and a deep understanding of the Southern California community, someone who could hit the ground running. Amanda largely represents all those qualities. She has a genuine passion for the work that is infectious."
The new director will need that sort of confidence from her troops. The job entails running one of the national organization's most lucrative offices, serving the second-largest Jewish population in the United States, along with two "outposts," one in the San Fernando Valley and another in Santa Barbara.
"It's a challenging job, but it comes with a lot of rewards," said Lehrer, adding that he wished the new director all the best in her new position.
Susskind's predecessor said he has moved on to a project he hopes will also make a positive mark on the L.A. scene
"I am in discussions with USC about a new organization called commUNITY advocates which will deal with issues of diversity, tolerance and creating common ground for the people of Los Angeles," he said.
Einhorn said the selection process was an opportunity to move past the difficulties of the past months since Lehrer's dismissal and begin a new chapter.
"We [the Los Angeles committee] had enormous input and did not feel pressured or unduly influenced by anybody outside the region," he said. "We're very comfortable with our choice. We didn't want a general who waits to see where his army goes so he can follow them; we needed a general who could lead his army in a time of great challenge. Amanda has that combination creativity and experience. I have no doubt the ADL will be well served by her."